How to travel cheap in the USA?
Well, USA is definitely not the cheapest country for travellers, but it’s not impossible to travel cheap either. During my 2-week trip I spent around 2700 dollars, but if I spent more time and effort I could have saved much more.
Below you can see what I spent:
Ticket to travel:
Budapest-Washington: 520 USD
Washington – Las Vegas: 320 USD
Las Vegas- Los Angeles: 20 USD (by bus)
Los Angeles-Budapest: 425 USD
Taxi (from airport, bus station to the hotel)
Las Vegas: 8 USD
Los Angeles: 22 USD
El Segundo: 17 USD
Las Vegas: 291 USD (in resort for 5 nights)
Los Angeles: 76 USD (in hostel for 3 nights
El Segundo: 138 USD (in private room with shared bathroom for 2 nights)
Stockholm: 145 USD (121 eur) (in hotel at the airport for 1 night)
Food: 212 USD (total for the 14 days): I ate once a day mainly in the morning.
Laundry: 6,5 USD
Car rent: 228 USD (for 2 days from the airport in Los Angeles)
Public transport in LA: 25USD
Medicine for cold: 20,71USD
Gambling in Las Vegas:13USD
Magnets:18USD (4 magnets)
Tour:135USD (to Grand Canyon)
Gift: 74,71USD (from the airport)
Total: 2767 USD
How I could have saved money?!
Airplane ticket: -520USD
From the airplane ticket price if I hadn’t had the initial return ticket Budapest-Washington I could have saved 520 USD. The ticket was from 21th December to 29th of January, since I broke up with Panda* I couldn’t stay for a whole month in the USA because of my work here and I couldn’t change the date of the ticket. Therefore I had to buy another one and that was 420USD.
So if you are patient and plan carefully why and how you travel somewhere, you can save money from the airplane ticket. I mean you won’t have to buy another one.
As far as I know it’s possible to buy a return ticket without deciding the return date at the moment of booking. If you are not sure when you come back check out this option. You can consult a travel agent or read more on the internet. Or buy the type of ticket where you can change the date. These types are usually a bit more expensive but is definitely not as much as buying a new one. And buy storno insurance for your flight. So even if you need to cancel the flight you will be refunded up to some percentage. Read the condition of insurance carefully!
Taxi: – 47USD
If I was more persistent to find a way to go to my accomodation I wouldn’t need to use taxi. In Las Vegas the resort offered free airport shuttle, I should have called them so I could have saved 8USD. In Los Angeles if I had spent more time to find a public transport or maybe Uber or had been willing to walk and not freaked out because of the neighborhood, I could have saved 22 dollars. Same with the last one in El Segundo.
If I was willing to stay in hostel for the whole 14 days, I could have saved at least half of the price. Instead of 505USD I would only have to pay around 250USD. Airbnb, Couchsurfing, Workaway could also be a possibility. Since I don’t like to share room with others or stay at other people’s place or work for free accommodation and food, I didn’t want to use either of them. It was a hard decision to stay in hostel in LA too, but since the price in LA was too expensive I didn’t have a choice. Las Vegas resort offered a quite good price for 5 nights, so I wanted to stay in luxury. In Stockholm I had a 17-hour layover. I have just learnt that during a long-hour layover some airports provide free accomodation for its guest. So if you have a long-hour layover in a country, search and ask about this information. In my case I might have saved 145USD more.
Staying in Hostel or Airbnb would be better if you want to save on food, as you will probably have opportunity to cook your own meal. In Las Vegas I ordered room service almost everyday so each meal cost averagely 20USD. I only ate once a day. As you can see eating like this is not healthy nor economical. If you stay in hotel, where there is no possiblity to cook, it might be better to book a room where the breakfast is included and find places where you can eat good food for cheaper price. Remember McDonald’s menu (11USD) costs as much as a proper meal. So if I planned more thoroughly, I could probably have spent 212USD for 3 meals a day for 14 days.
When I looked at the price on carrentals.com I got the price of 32USD. At the airport after they calculated it turned out to be 228USD. The difference was quite big and I didn’t say anything. So if you need to rent a car, before you agree to get the car ask how the price can be reduced. If you don’t understand something, be brave enough to ask.
If you don’t have a lot of clothes, put your clothes in smaller sized washing machine. When I was at the laundromat I was lost as there were too many washing machine and I didn’t realize there were smaller-sized machine that cost less than the big one I used. So pay attention to the size of the machine if you need to go to laundromat. I could have saved 3USD there.
In Las Vegas I only walked. In LA walking was impossible, but here you can buy TAP card from vending machine before you enter the metro line. One way ticket cost 1.75USD, 1-day unlimited pass 7USD and 7-day unlimited pass 25USD. I thought I only needed it for 3days so I bought 1-day pass thinking I would spend less like this, but it turned out I spent the same amount and I always had to worry about being caught by contoller, thinking and planning how to save more money on it, when it already seemed impossible to save. So if you know you will stay in Los Angeles for 7 days, buy the 7-day unlimited pass. You can use it as much as you want and on every transportation. That gives you peaceful feeling too, as you don’t need to be afraid of the controllers and keep thinking about it.
Medicine: – 13USD
I got cold when I arrived in Las Vegas, so I had to buy medicine. I bought 1 for cold, 1 for my throat (just in case), 1 nose spray. In the end I only used few tablets from the cold medicine. I could have saved around 13USD if I didn’t buy nose spray and medicine against sore throat. I recommend you to bring medicine against cold and any other ones you need from home. It will save time and energy. You don’t have to spend time in finding another one that you are not sure if it will work for you or not.
I went into some Karma shop in Las Vegas to look at the bracelets as I wanted one too, and the shop assistant made me buy one for 27.05USD. Definitely not the cheapest bracelet ever. My advice is if you don’t want to buy a product, don’t let the shop assistant persuade you to do so, and simply say no. It’s not easy to do, even I need to learn how to say no, but remember that you are not rude to say no to products you don’t need or one you can find cheaper.
If you want to buy souvenirs, simply don’t buy it at the airport. I was lazy to buy any of it on my way as I didn’t want to carry them, but in the end I had to pay more for it. If you find somewhere a nice souvenir that you think can suit the person you want to give, buy it there. Believe me, carrying them is the least problem.
Tour to Grand Canyon: – 21USD
If you want to go to Grand Canyon with tour, there are many options for you in Las Vegas. Ask as many vendor as you can and compare the price + service they offer. I asked 2 places and if I bought the first one I could have saved 21USD. But the second one seemed more trustworthy that’s why I bought there. Of course be careful and make sure you buy tour ticket from a trustworthy person. In my case I didn’t need to pay the whole price at once, only 63 USD on the day I book it, and the rest is the next day after I did registration to get on the bus. If you don’t have to pay the whole price at once that vendor is probably not a conman.
Tipping is normal in the USA, moreover you should tip. But I had a situation in Hollywood, where I was stopped by a man who wanted to give a CD of his songs. I thought it was for free, so I accepted it, but then he asked me for a tip. I gave him 3USD and he asked for 2USD more. I felt really annoyed and wanted to give him back the CD, but I didn’t want to seem rude. That goes back to what I wrote before at the bracelet. If you don’t want to buy a product they offer you, be brave to say no. Don’t try to be polite to person you don’t know and probably won’t see anymore, if you think he/she crosses the line.**
Gambling: -3 USD
If you are in Las Vegas of course you need to try to gamble. Only play as much as you are willing to lose. Don’t think that you can earn back the 10 USD you already lost by betting on more. If you can’t stop that will have a worse result. Fortunately I could stop when I reached 13 USD, but originally I only wanted to spend 10USD on it.
If you count the prices I indicated after each item, it comes out to be 1012USD. I could have saved at least 1012USD, that means instead of 2767USD I would only need to pay 1755USD. As I wrote before in my post about 4 harsh truth I learned, there is a price for it too.
If you are like me who don’t like sharing room with others, it might be hard to bring yourself to do so to save money. In term of accommodation, it’s either you want comfort that you need to pay the money for it, or free accomodation where you need to give up your comfort. You decide.
In term of airplane ticket don’t make the same mistake like me. If you only travel somewhere because of your partner, make sure few things before you go:
- Do you have work or other responsiblity at home?
I’m tutoring in my hometown and leaving for 1 month would be a quite long hiatus for them, but I didn’t think thoroughly about it. In the end it was lucky that I didn’t leave them for 1 month.
- Is the relationship secure enough that you can spend 1 month with your partner for sure?
I dated Panda for 1 month before booking the ticket. Now I realized I rushed things too early.
If you still decide to go:
- Buy an airplane ticket where you can change the date
- Or leave the return date blank, so you can decide when to come back later. Consult travel agent for this matter.
- Buy a storno (cancellation) insurance with it too, so in case you need to cancel you will get back some percentage of it.
- You can wait until it’s 100% sure you are going and then buy the plane ticket. This way it might be more expensive but at least 100% sure.
The other items where you can save money, it’s all based on thinking and planning thoroughly. Spend time and effort to look for informations and hack your travel. If you don’t want to buy something, don’t buy it. And remember sometimes paying more might mean paying less (in my case of public transport pass in LA).
*Panda=my ex-boyfriend, I will call him like this from now on
** Normally respect everyone you meet. If the other person crosses the line, stand up for yourselves. But make sure you behave reasonably and with manner.